Global Talent Art Prize 1st Winner
Interview: Tatana Kellner
Tatana Kellner. Shared memories, acrylic on canvas, 56″x 78.5″, 2020
Can you recall the moment you knew you wanted to be an artist? What made you interested in arts?
I grew up in Prague and while walking around the city was fascinated with painters and their easels painting the city scenes. It seemed incredible to me that someone is able to represent reality. When I was about 10 years old, I asked my parents for oil paints. There were 6 of us living in a 2 bedroom apartment, and painting with oil was not an option. Instead I was gifted watercolor set, I was disappointed.
Tatana Kellner. New love, acrylic on paper, 30″ x 50″, 2022
Tell us about your artistic process and the way you brainstorm ideas? What do you usually start with when creating? How do ideas become artworks?
It all depends on the mode I’m working with. Sometimes I work on specific project, such as an artist’s book or an installation, and in those instances I work on developing the idea first. Once that’s accomplished, I begin to figure out the best way to execute/produce that project, working out all the technical parameters before proceeding to production. This process can take anywhere from 6 months to several years, and I never know how long it might take. If I knew, I might get discouraged and not proceed. The satisfying aspect of working on a specific project is that I’m solving technical problems and when I enter my studio, I don’t have the angst of creating ‘art’ out of thin air. Most of the times these days my work is not project specific.
I go to my studio and begin working with materials at hand. My process in that case is intuitive. I use the simplest means of painting, drawing and collage to create my work. While contemplating the stressed and troubling world we find ourselves in, I sit in my studio finding the courage to pick up a brush. As I paint, I question and struggle how to channel my feelings of helplessness into a meaningful statement that would feed the soul. I want to scream but I don’t think that’s what we need right now. We need new pathways and visions to allow us to breathe and find a way to move forward in our troubled and beautiful world. That’s what I strive for in my work, melding the daily troubles both far and near, with the absolute joy of welcoming the new day so full of possibilities with open eyes and heart.
Tatana Kellner. Distancing, acrylic on paper, 50″ x 80.5″, 2021
Do you have or have had a mentor or other special person to guide you?
At 71, I don’t have a mentor. I trust the sharp eye and mind of my partner, Ann Kalmbach who sometimes collaborates with me on artists’ books and other public interventions.
Tatana Kellner. Talking back, acrylic on paper, 26″ x 40″, 2022
How has your style changed over the years? If yes, could you explain why?
My style and medium of choice changes frequently, since I’m very wary of repeating myself, which I find boring. Once I feel I have nothing new to add, I move on to new challenges. I’m interested in seeing that which does not exist, that which surprised me, that which forces me to be brave, that which conquers my fears. Through a process of accumulation and subtraction, I embrace the subjectivity of my particular experience and perspective. I’m interested what happens between the mind, the hand and the surface, how the materials and mark making disrupt the surface, how they evolve into a new whole, and emerge into the world whole.
Tatana Kellner. Hanging in the balance, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 57″ x 72″, 2022
Your artistic practice is very extensive and includes artist’s books, printmaking, papermaking, drawing, photography and installation. Every piece alof art has its own vocabulary, a visual vocabulary that confers it structure and interest. What would you tell viewers to help them apprehend your work? What kind of message do you wish to convey in your art?
I’m very weary of messages. Growing up under communism, where all art had to have a message, I hope to be more nuanced in my expression. That said, with my project specific work, there is certainly a point of view, since the impetus of these projects is a specific event (current or historical) based on information I find interesting, troubling or irresistible to comment on.
In my daily studio work (painting, drawing, collage, prints) there is no specific message, it’s up to the viewer to find what it means to them.
Tatana Kellner. In Plain Sight, acrylic and oil on paper, 29″ x 40″, 2022
Tell us more about what project you are currently working on?
Currently I’ve returned to my first love – painting. I began this body of work during the lock down and it’s titled Apart. In this work I explore the collision of information with the excitement of the unknown. I’m interested in the gap between abstraction and representation, the non-specificity and the compression of feelings combined with the adventure the material lends itself to. My process is organic and intuitive, beginning with a mark, a large abstract shape, or a photograph to create an optical and emotional experience. From these tentative beginnings, a new space emerges, suggesting perhaps figurative or associative element that I respond to. This is not something literal, it’s a feeling, often a fleeting one, a sense of things under the surface, that something is there, lurking just around the corner. It is this ambiguity that intrigues me.
Tatana Kellner. Tread Lightly, acrylic and oil on paper, 30.25″ x 44″, 2021
What will be your next project?
I’d like to make a new artist’s book, but don’t have a good idea yet to proceed with anything. Until I do, I continue to work in my studio on new paintings and collages.
Tatana Kellner. Together, acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 57″ x 87″, 2021
What is your dream project?
Funny, I never remember my dreams. My ongoing goal is to make the best art I can.
Tatana Kellner. Unseen Dangers, acrylic on paper, 72″ x 110″, 2022
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you?
For me, it means being totally engaged in creating and looking forward to returning to my studio to continue.
Tatana Kellner. Narcissus, acrylic on canvas, 44″ x 69.5″, 2020
What is art for?
Art feeds my mind and soul. It makes live exciting, richer and meaningful.